For many Christians, to be a Christian actually means propping up their preferred interpretation of Jesus the Christ from the New Testament gospel accounts as a deity to be worshiped, obeyed, followed, etc. Essentially, the individual – obviously influenced by a variety of things – idolizes his or her “own personal Jesus.” There are a variety of Jesus interpretations that are popular at any given time in any given culture. In the name of “Truth” and because people invest so much of their time, energy, resources, etc. into this pursuit, most people see their interpretation of Jesus as THE ONE RIGHT, objective interpretation. So, there is a lot of debate between different Christian communities about who is Right – and, of course, who to exclude because they have the wrong Jesus.
But, what if this entire approach is not only toxic to everyone involved, but is actually not inherent to the trajectory of the stories about Jesus the Christ that we have approximate access to?
What if Jesus himself would have been confused that an entire religion had been formed around him? That millions of people had blindly devoted themselves to his teaching? That his “disciples” had not moved beyond Jesus? That so many people were content to remain as sheep? That many others had actually died either fighting against those who disagree about Jesus (“fighting for Jesus”) or became “martyrs” because of a perceived “persecution” due to identifying with Jesus in some way?
My interpretation of Jesus is that he did not want this. His mission was to evoke a new way of being human: the way of love, in contrast to the many other ways that each of us has the freedom to decide for ourselves to live. That those around him should re-imagine what divinity actually might mean, in light of this new way.
I think that to actually take Jesus seriously, to actually follow him in the direction he was pointing, is to move beyond our solidified interpretations of our idolized Jesus, into the risky, unknown, terrifying territory of love. To be a Christian is to forsake Christ for the sake of humanity.
I’m sure that for many people this sounds crazy. Ridiculous. Maybe…
But, for me, it’s a hopeful opportunity to embody this new way of being. Not to spend our short lives trying to get to “the Real Jesus” so that we can faithfully obey or follow him, but to be new icons of divinity in our own situations. To love and accept ourselves, and to give ourselves to others. Not to waste away in endless philosophical speculations, but to see everything as an opportunity to love. Not to see people as projects toward some “higher” agenda, as means to an end, but all of humanity as fellow participants in becoming more aware of love’s presence among and within us, and the powerless call of love that comes to us in the face of strangers, friends, family, and, even, those who are the most difficult to love.
As the tradition goes, Jesus said “do not cling to me…GO“